Everywhere you look these days, there are courses on, readings about and how-to’s for nonprofits on social media. While virtually every individual you know is on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, SlideShare, and/or on and on, does every nonprofit need to be there?

Should nonprofits be in the social media game?

According to a September 16, 2011, post on the go-to social media website Social Media Today, 65% of all U.S. adults using the Internet are now using social networking sites. That is up from:

  • 61% last year
  • And  just 5% in 2005!

But, the source is Social Media Today. So, some might be inclined to probe a bit deeper.

And I did. What I found is that those statistics were actually generated by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The study also included the surprising statistic that 50% of the entire U.S. adult population uses social media – even if they don’t use other online platforms. So, nonprofits do need to focus on social media, because our constituents are there!

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For more than a year now, I have pledged to blog more frequently. That shouldn’t be very hard. Geez, more than once a month would be more frequently.

But it suddenly hit me a couple of weeks ago. I was listening to the radio and heard the lyrics, “Who died and made you king of anything.” And it all fell into place: I don’t blog more, because I can’t figure out why anyone cares what I have to say.

Maybe I have low self-esteem. Or maybe, as a Boomer, I’m of the generation that was told bragging is impolite. And it seems to me that telling the world what I think — even if I do have a few decades worth of experience — is similar to bragging.

Folks 10 to 15 years my junior were grown when social networking changed the rules on what you did and did not share. But many learned to embrace the new medium. Of course, those coming of age today assume that you use the Web to share pretty much everything. So, blogging is a natural pastime for these folks.

But it takes a lot to “rev” myself up to write about what I think, what I do and what I would do on a blog.

So, now that I’ve figured out why I have not blogged more, let’s see if I can just “get over it” and let my fingers do the walking. (Although that phrase means something very different to me as a Boomer than it might to Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials.) But I’ll try not to let my age get in the way.

Are any of you other Boomers blog-shy? What do you do to keep at it? For my more youthful colleagues, what helps you get the fingers flying? And for those of you wishing not to reveal your age, just give me general advice (wink, wink).

As always, thanks in advance.

Denise M

A Respected Brand Can Get You Through Tough Times

When friends, coworkers and even family members find out that I went to Washington, D.C. for the Inauguration of President Barack H. Obama, they ask, What was it like? In their usually hushed voices, you hear one part awe, one part envy and two parts reverence. Even one of my husband’s friends, who mostly just nods when he sees me, asked to speak with me –  during their sacred weekly call about football – when he heard that I was on the National Mall for the swearing in.

Certainly, everyone from my mom to Rupert Murdoch and from the Guardian to CNN, MSNBC and Fox News (and how often do they all agree?) have called Barack Obama a rock star. Even rival John McCain pejoratively referred to then-Senator Obama during the presidential campaign as a celebrity.

So of course, everyone assumes that my experience witnessing the inauguration in person must have been amazing. And it was.

But it was also cold and windy and amazingly frustrating. I walked for nearly two hours from one check point to another between nine city blocks, and then was subjected to a body search in the frigid weather, before I finally got onto the mall to witness the event. And I, a member of the ticket-less lumpen proletariat, did better than hundreds of ticket holders who never made it in at all due to some kind of security breach.

But in the midst of all of the confusion, all of the waiting, and all of the pushing and shoving in and out of the Metro station and on the streets, two million people kept smiling – broadly – and greeting each other with such a positive spirit. And that is a testament to President Obama and all that he stands for.

And it is also a result, for those of us who try to practice such things, of successful branding and effective social marketing.

Social Marketing and Building a Respected Brand

Now before you suggest that I’m reducing President Obama’s accomplishments to a good brand, hear me out. The Obama campaign can teach nonprofits a lot about branding, messaging and social marketing.

Few people believed just a year ago at the beginning of 2008, that then-Senator Obama had a chance at the U.S. presidency. Even his wife has admitted to questioning his belief that he could be U.S. Commander-in-Chief. In addition to being a black man, our current president was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia and has a name that is anything but U.S.-traditional. His parents were not married when he was born, and his father was not American.

So how did he make it, and how can nonprofit organizations use some of the lessons from his campaign?

Six Steps to Borrow from Candidate Obama’s Brand Playbook

1) Be clear about purpose: First and foremost, candidate Obama was clear about what he wanted to achieve. Not only did he want to be the president for change, but he was clear about what that change would mean: transparent government, inclusive decision-making based on solid facts, citizen empowerment, progressive national and international policies, stewardship of our economy and ecology, and using technology to improve lives and strengthen communication.

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Challenges and Opportunities in the Age of
New Media for Grassroots Organizations

The annual Be the Media Mini-Conference will help participants understand the link between strategic communications and organizing strategies as well as learn more about essential communications tools and techniques.

Attendees of the 2007 Be the Media Mini-Conference at the opening panelDate: Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Time: 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (lunch provided)
Location: NonProfit Center
Cost: $15 – $35 sliding scale, includes lunch
Sponsored by: Progressive Communicators Network and Third Sector New England
Co-sponsored by: Project Think Different, Boston Women’s Fund, Resist and Press Pass TV

Communications and media work are powerful tools for organizers and nonprofits working on community and social issues, but they can also present challenges, particularly for under-resourced groups.

In recent years, the development of new media tools such as social networking sites, blogs with multi-media content, YouTube and cell phones as mass communication devices have both given groups more options and raised questions about where to focus already limited staff and volunteer time. At this year’s conference, we will explore not only how to implement these tools, but identify what are their best and most impactful uses for grassroots organizations.

The conference is designed to serve change makers at levels of communication experience including those who are doing communications work as part of their current positions, such as organizers, executive directors or policy advocates.

Being very interested in how nonprofits are using social media ourselves, we’d like to pass along a survey whose results we look forward to seeing.

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Talance is launching the Massachusetts Nonprofit Social Media Survey, whose objective is to gauge how Massachusetts nonprofits are using social media.

The results will help delineate where nonprofits fall in social media adoption rates, how that varies (for example by the size of the org), and what kind of benefits they’re receiving from their efforts. The findings will provide solid practical value for nonprofits that want to benchmark their own practices.

The survey will be open until Nov. 21, 2008.

Anyone can receive a free executive summary of the survey results when they become available this winter. Every organization that submits a completed survey will receive a complimentary copy of the full survey report, available in February.